I told Bart Monday afternoon that I’d actually do a recap of the Hornets game, but that the previous two games had left me uninspired. The team is going through the motions, imo, and I am not at all on board with this “Manu is Back” meme. We looked flat and tired against the Knicks, we looked flat against the Sixers and they looked tired, and we looked positively atrocious against the Hornets. Manu is turning the ball over a ton and he is playing some of the worst defense I have ever seen.
Yes, I’m a bit down on the team right now.
The Knicks Game
The Knicks shut down the paint against us. They allowed nothing. They did it with Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd. Chandler’s length and mobility caused us all kinds of problems and Jason Kidd kept Tony Parker out of the paint. We can call it a FOGAFINI issue if you want, but the fact is that we have to be able to play better against the likes of the Knicks. And we didn’t. If Chandler and Kidd are going to shut down our offense, then so are Ibaka and whoever, Gasol and Conley, and Jordan and Paul.
Remember, we played the Knicks without their second best scorer in Ray Felton.
The Sixers Game
The Sixers game was fools gold. They were dog tired and still kept it close for quite awhile. We were very sloppy with the ball, but we managed to hit some shots and they couldn’t hit anything from distance. Yes, Manu had a DUNK (seriously, we are celebrating when a 6′ 6″ NBA player gets his first dunk of the season) and a few other layups. However, remember who patrols the paint for the Sixers. Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes. Manu SHOULD get layups.
The Hornets Game
Yowza. What a stinker. Triple extra sloppy. Triple extra uninspired. I think Pop is about one game, Wednesday’s Lakers game, from hammering the team. They can redeem themselves by coming out aggressive and working hard, but if they don’t…
I don’t think I’ve seen the Spurs as flat and out worked as they were against the Hornets all season. Nothing even close really. My guess is that this is the perfect time for the guys to hit a lull. Pop can jump on them in the next game or two and then they hit the rodeo road trip and the home stretch of the season.
What’s Up With Our Bench
The bench has been lousy for 4-5 games straight now.
Nando seems to have hit a wall. He’s not penetrating very much and when he does he’s throwing it to the other team. He’s hesitating on his shot (also a team problem). Overall, he’s very passive. Players have to walk that fine line between playing under control and forcing the action by being aggressive. Nando is missing that balance right now.
Boris needs to set his feet and take his open shots. When he doesn’t, it kills the offense. He could probably also stand to drop a couple pounds. The sun comes up in the East. Beignets are good. Etc.
DeJuan Blair has totally disappeared from the rotation. It’s well deserved. He’s been brutal in just about every stretch of time he’s gotten since the first of December.
Matt Bonner is also struggling and it’s not May. Crazy, I know. He was lost on defense against the Hornets and he couldn’t get a shot off. When he has been getting open for shots, he seems to prefer to pump fake and drive. He’s causing me to die a slow death.
Stephen Jackson is the greatest. That’s all.
Gary Neal is still struggling on the defensive end, but he makes shots and God bless him, he’s not afraid to take them. Which makes him a rare commodity on this team.
Our offense has really been out of sync for a while now. It reminds me of the playoffs last year when OKC finally started to shut us down. However, not everybody has OKC’s length and quickness. But, what we are seeing, is the other team stifle our ball movement. When that happens, we struggle to get good shots. Several things are happening. I’ll sum them up as: 1) zoning the pick and roll, 2) hesitating with the ball, 3) people movement.
1. Zoning the Pick and Roll — The Knicks and Hornets did a great job of this whenever we ran a pick and roll with Tony and Tim. Chandler would back up just a bit, Kidd would fight around the screen, and the weak side help would show to deny the pass to Tim when he popped to the free throw line. Chandler doesn’t return to Tim UNTIL Tim receives the pass if it even gets there. If Tim does get the pass, Chandler hustles out to him AND the weak side help immediately leaves to go back to his man. The defense is pretty much challenging the offense to beat them with Tony and Tim taking long semi-contested 2s. What we aren’t doing is moving the ball sharply. Tony will hesitate on the pass because of the weak side help. Tim hesitates to see what he’s given as one defender leaves and another arrives. Both of these actions slow the offense and force us into having to beat a guy one-on-one. Not our strength.
2. Hesitating with the ball — Just as above with Tony and Tim handling the pick and roll (or pick and pop), all our guys are hesitating. They are mostly hesitating on their shots. How many times have you seen a pump fake at the 3-pt line followed by a dribble and then…nothing. Danny Green, Kawhi, Manu, Gary, etc. They are all pump-faking and then they dribble and then nothing. We saw a ton of this in the OKC series. None of the guys adjusted until game 6 when Jack decided to start shooting anyway. Teams have learned that you run at the Spurs shooters and they won’t shoot. You don’t even have to challenge the shot. Run, chop your steps, and defend. Our guys will pump fake, dribble once, then do nothing. Manu is the about the only guy capable of attacking the paint after the dribble. Our guys need to step up and shoot those shots without hesitating.
3. People movement — When teams zone us up in the pick and roll, we have to fight it by moving people. Too often our guys end up stagnant waiting for something to happen. I think this is especially true of our wings who camp in the corners. How many times have you seen Tony dribble across the pick, see nothing, and toss a useless pass to the guy in the corner. They just hand it back to Tony and do something else. Guys who don’t move become easy to defend at this point. The key to a motion offense is motion. If the other team stops your motion then they have stopped your offense.
I judge Manu’s performance on two criteria. Points created when driving the paint (minus turnovers) and staying in front of his man on defense. Manu has done neither one very well this year, though he is showing some signs of life driving the paint. On defense, Manu has spent the entire season gambling and exposing the defense. IMO, he really needs to put his head down and play fundamentally sound defense. Stop going for a steal on every pass, fight through screens, don’t always try to poke the ball out after the goes by you, stay in front of your man, etc. I lost count of the number of times his man drove right past him like he wasn’t there.